How did Arizona get its name? Arizona is a special place with a special name. Just where did the name “Arizona” come from? Historians do not know for sure. They have two major ideas. Idea #1 states that the name “Arizona” comes from A remote desert spring, like the one shown above, may have been the reason for the name “Arizona.” an Indian word. That Indian word is “Ali-Shonak.” Ali-Shonak is a Tohono O’odham word. It means “place of the small stream.” The use of this word first came about in 1736. The Spanish, while claiming the King’s fifth of a silver mine, wrote the word Ali-Shonak as “Arizonac.” From this spelling, the name “Arizona” came to be used. Idea #2 states that the name “Arizona” might come A remote desert canyon in the country of Mexico once was the site of a rich silver mine. It was at this silver mine that the words that would become the name “Arizona” were first used by the Spanish conquistadors. from some Basque words. The Basque are people from northern Spain. They are known as great sheepherders. Basque herders were living in the area of this 1736 silver mine. The Basque words “arri” means rock and “ona” means good; “the good rock.” This name would speak well for a silver mine. Another possibility is the Basque words “aritz” meaning “oak” and “ona” meaning “good”; “aritz onak,” “the good oak tree.” Could Arizona mean “place of a small stream”? Could it mean “the good rock” or “the good oak tree”? We may never know the true meaning. We do know it is a very special land. It is a land of contrasts and wonders! 20  Chapter 2 • The Land